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Orienteering welcomes kids and beginners

Orienteering is like treasure-hunting in the woods. Photo courtesy of Arctic Orienteering.

By Guest blogger Cindy Norquest

I recently had the opportunity to discover the family-friendly sport called orienteering. 

According to Arctic Orienteering, the sport is for anyone who’s game to try it: “Orienteering is the sport of cross country navigation using map and compass. To some it is a competitive race while to others it is a chance to get out and explore the countryside, challenge the mind, and enjoy the company. Either way, you are welcome to participate.”

Wanting to learn more about the sport described as “treasure hunting in the woods,” I spoke with members of the Arctic Orienteering Club. During the summer months, this dedicated group of volunteers hosts weekly meets for the community to enjoy. Healthy Futures — the program I direct — is making it possible for kids to orienteer for free this summer.

The people I talked with came to orienteering from different backgrounds, different abilities and were introduced to the sport at different ages. For Trond, a competitive athlete, his love of orienteering began as a child in Norway when his father introduced him to the sport around age eight. As Trond shared his experiences, the tone of his voice softened, leaving no doubt that lasting memories and a special bond were created while orienteering with his father.

Jen, a mother of a five-year-old boy, was introduced to orienteering by a love interest in college. Jen’s description of orienteering was poetic, leaving images of a mother and child experiencing the beauty of nature in a way that creates a lasting love of the outdoors and memories that evoke a smile. 

On the other hand, Joyce did not begin orienteering until her late forties. Joyce has a light-hearted view of orienteering, laughingly acknowledging she is a slower participant whose goal often includes finishing before all the cookies are gone.

As I spoke with all of them, I discovered more than a fun sport. I discovered a community of physically active people who like to personally challenge themselves and yet are welcoming of everyone no matter their ability. I knew that I had found a sport to try.

Now, how to start? Arctic Orienteering views training as part of their purpose and enthusiastically welcomes beginners and young people to take part in their weekly meets. One of the best ways to get started is to attend the free “Introduction to Orienteering” class at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at the BP Energy Center in Anchorage. Attendees will receive prizes and can win one of 10 season passes worth $90.


Cindy Norquest is the program director for Healthy Futures, the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. Healthy Futures has been promoting and encouraging childhood physical activity since 2003. For more information, visit